Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Art of Real Happiness

In the 1950’s and through the 1970’s, Reverend Norman Vincent Peale was a best-selling author while serving as the renowned minister at The Marble Colligate Church in Manhattan.

His books and radio talks inspired millions of people. He started a clinic at Marble Collegiate with psychiatrist Smiley Blanton where they developed a form of religious-psychological therapy, which was radically new and a bit controversial at the time. (Interestingly, today the fields of psychology and psychiatry are returning to practices that directly include the spiritual and religious beliefs of clients.)

Peale’s work was inspirational and like his peer, Dale Carnegie, he helped millions of Americans understand their feelings, beliefs and behaviors, and to learn new methods of communication and personal change.

One of Peale’s most popular books was, “The Art of Real Happiness” which became a hand-to-hand classic within the Alcoholics Anonymous community. And it’s no surprise as Peale’s message was close in tone and meaning to the messages and practices of AA: Surrender, Acceptance, Living One Day at a Time and committing to a regular faith life and habit.

In a used bookstore a month ago I found a first-edition copy of “The Art of Real Happiness” and marveled at my good luck. Then marveled further to see that in 1950 Peale had included a chapter called, “A Solution for Problem Drinking” where he details some of the psychological aspects at the root of problem drinking, naming resentment as a big one. And then he gives—in caring detail—an outline of how AA works—with the example of a businessman who has fallen far, and another showing a woman who is also struggling with drink.

This powerful chapter also tells the story of AA’s start and the importance of having a spiritual experience.

I love knowing that this classic piece of 1950’s self-help literature was also admired and shared by our earlier AA family members, and to know that we are also part of the Norman Vincent Peale lineage as well.

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